The Elusive Pronoun

Autistic children are known to have trouble with pronouns.  It is not simply mixing up “you” and “me”, but all pronouns; he, she, her, his, I, you, me, we, us…  There are theories regarding this confusion.  One such theory from Simon Baron-Cohen who coined the phrase “mindblindness” suggests autistic children have trouble self differentiating and therefore become confused when confronted with pronouns.  He has since amended his theory, suggesting autism is a form of “male brain” or empathizing-systemizing (E-S) theory.  He goes on to explain that autism is a series of deficits and delays in empathy.

As with all things “autistic”, it’s a theory.

Last night Emma came into our room at 2:30AM.

“C’mon Em.  You have to go back to your bed,” I told her.

“Mommy come.  You have to ask Mommy.  Mommy can I get you come into the other room?” Emma said, sadly.

“I’m going to go with you.  Come on.  Let’s go back to your bed,” I said, holding her hand.

I tucked Emma into bed and sat next to her, stroking her head.  “Now Em, you need to try to go to sleep.  You need to go to sleep and stay in your own bed until it’s light out.  Then you can come into my room.”

Emma took her hand and gently pressed it to my cheek, “You,” she said.  Then she took my hand and pressed it to her cheek, “Me,” she said.

“That’s right, Emmy!  You,” I pressed our hands to her mouth, “and me,” I said, holding our hands to my face.  This is going better than I expected, I thought. “I’m going to go back to bed, Em.  You have to stay here and try to go back to sleep, “ I explained.

“Okay,” Emma said.

I stood up.

“No!  You and me!” Emma cried.

And then I understood.  She was telling me she wanted me to stay with her.  I had assumed she was showing me she understood the correct use of the words, “You” and “Me.”  It was an interesting moment, with me taking her words literally, and Emma trying desperately to convey her upset and desire for me to stay with her.

“Okay, Em,” I said.  “But I’m really tired.  I have to get some rest,” I tried to explain.

“It’s okay,” Richard said, appearing at the door.  “You go ahead.  I’ll stay with her.”

“Mommy stay with Emma!” Emma said tearfully.

“Mommy has to go to sleep, Em,” I reminded her.

“Okay,” Emma said.  With that she got up and raced past both Richard and me to our bedroom.

“It’s okay,” Richard said with a resigned tone.  “Go with her, I’ll stay here.”

This morning as we went through the motions of getting breakfast for the children, checking backpacks, I said to Richard, “And how long did it take you to fall back asleep?”

“Oh, about an hour and a half,” he said.

“Yup!  Em and me too,” I answered with feigned cheeriness.

“Looks like a beautiful day,” Richard commented, glancing out the window.

“Another gorgeous day,” I agreed.

“Fake it til you make it,” Diane Von Furstenberg told an audience member at the WIE Symposium a few weeks ago.

It’s all in ones perspective.

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